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FGCU women’s basketball wins ninth straight game in conference opener against Stetson


he Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles extended their win streak to nine this weekend with a win in the opening game of Atlantic Sun Conference play at Alico Arena. This is the sixth straight season the Eagles have begun their season 1-0 and improved their record this year to 14-2. The win came over Stetson University (11-4) and was a come-from-behind win in the second half.
FGCU trailed by as much as 15 at one point in the second half but was able to fight back and get the win, 57-55. A poor shooting performance the entire game kept the Eagles out of it from the start. They overcame a 34-25 halftime deficit, something FGCU was able to do in each of the three meetings between the two last year. A 12-0 run by the Eagles late in the second half sparked the explosive offense before a Jenna Cobb 3-pointer tied the game with 1:51 left.
The Green and Blue defense held the Hatters to no field goals on seven attempts to close the game.
“This is another game against Stetson that went down to the very last play,” coach Karl Smesko said. “I thought Stetson played really well and had us on the ropes a couple times. I’m proud of our team, the way we didn’t give up and the way we hung in there despite our struggles offensively. We kept working on the defensive end and we were able to hang in there so that when we finally did make a couple shots it was just enough to win the game.”
Whitney Knight led the scoring for the Eagles as she had 20 points on 44 percent shooting. Knight also grabbed 10 rebounds on her way to her fourth double-double of the season as well as scoring 10 points late in the game to lead the FGCU comeback. Cobb added nine points while Kaneisha Atwater dropped eight points with six rebounds.
FGCU shot just 29.4 percent on the night and 22.4 percent from beyond the arc. To add to the Eagles, poor shooting performance, they were also outrebounded 48-36. Strong defense turned out to be the difference, causing multiple turnovers and scoring on those opportunities to fuel the second-half surge.
The Eagles began with a 1-for-10 from three-point range to kick off the second half before a three from redshirt-freshman Taylor Gradinjan with 12:35 remaining began the scoring outburst. The 12-point run came off a DyTiesha Dunson free throw, an Atwater layup, and back-to-back three-pointers by Knight.
The second of Knight’s threes came with just over seven minutes to play and brought the Eagles to within three.  The Hatters managed to extend their lead to nine points once again, but were called for a double-dribble minutes later to begin the team’s collapse.
Stephanie Haas made a key block with just under two minutes to play and the Eagles down by three to give possession back to the Green and Blue. Cobb then sunk her late 3-pointer to tie the game and bring the momentum to the home team and lead the Eagles to their first conference win of the year.
FGCU will get back to play tonight at 7 p.m. when it takes on the University of North Florida in Alico Arena. This weekend the Eagles will travel for the first time in conference play to take on Jacksonville University.

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